The governor of New Mexico seems poised to sign a bill to legalize marijuana first thing next week, with a sponsor of the reform legislation telling Marijuana Moment that she’s received a “save the date” notice for what appears to be a signing ceremony on Monday.
The legislature sent Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) an adult-use legalization proposal late last month after approving it in a special session that she convened specifically to finalize the reform. Advocates have been eagerly awaiting its signing, though there are procedural reasons it has not yet happened.
Rep. Andrea Romero (D), a sponsor of the reform bill, told Marijuana Moment on Friday that the governor’s office reached out to her and other lawmakers recently and told them to keep their schedules open on Monday.
“We received a ‘save the date’ with no other information that has been confirmed at this point,” she said. “That’s all the info I have so far.”
Romero similarly told KUNM this week that the signing ceremony is “loosely” set for Monday, though “we’re still very fluid.” She added that the legislation first had to be vetted through a “thorough process” by the Legislative Council Service before being certified and formally sent to the governor’s desk.
Also expected to be signed soon is a separate bill concerning expungements for prior cannabis convictions that passed during the special session.
A spokesperson for Lujan Grisham did not immediately respond to a request for confirmation of the possible Monday signing event but told Marijuana Moment earlier this week that governor was first planning to take action on more than 150 bills that passed during the regular session before dealing with those approved in the short special session.
In any case, it seems that gubernatorial action is imminent to make New Mexico the 18th state to officially end prohibition.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed a legalization bill last week, just hours after lawmakers sent it to his desk. And on Wednesday, Virginia lawmakers approved Gov. Ralph Northam’s (D) amendments to legal cannabis legislation they previously passed, meaning that no further gubernatorial action is needed to formally enact the law.
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Meanwhile, New Mexico regulators aren’t wasting any time setting up the adult-use marijuana market. Even before the policy has been formally enacted, the state launched a website to provide information about its impending new cannabis law.
Lujan Grisham has been an outspoken advocate for ending cannabis prohibition and standing up a regulated market, which she says could help boost the state’s economy at a critical time. When the legislature failed to pass a legalization bill during the regular session because members couldn’t finalize a deal before a legislative deadline, she promptly announced a special session to tackle the reform.
“This is a significant victory for New Mexico,” Lujan Grisham said after lawmakers passed the bill. “Workers will benefit from the opportunity to build careers in this new economy. Entrepreneurs will benefit from the opportunity to create lucrative new enterprises. The state and local governments will benefit from the additional revenue. Consumers will benefit from the standardization and regulation that comes with a bona fide industry.”
The legalization and expungements bills were originally part of a single piece of legislation, HB 12, that passed the House during the regular session but stalled on the Senate floor. Heading into the special session, proponents separated the criminal justice aspects in a bid to win support from Republicans and moderate Democrats who argued that the proposal as a whole was too broad.
Before last year’s failed effort, New Mexico’s House in 2019 approved a legalization bill that included provisions to put marijuana sales mostly in state-run stores, but that measure died in the Senate. Later that year, Lujan Grisham created a working group to study cannabis legalization and issue recommendations.
In May of last year, the governor signaled she was considering actively campaigning against lawmakers who blocked her legalization bill in 2020. She also said that she’d be open to letting voters decide on the policy change via a ballot referendum if lawmakers couldn’t send a legalization bill to her desk.
Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.